The UK’s Glastonbury Festival confirmed the final two thirds of its main-stage headliners lineup on Friday, with Guns’n’Roses and Arctic Monkeys joining Elton John at the top of its 2023 bill. Given the growing discussion in recent years about sausage-stuffed festival lineups, the announcement quickly sparked criticism and controversy.
There are nuances here, though. Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis has long been an advocate for more diverse bookings at the festival, and in an interview with the Guardian published as this year’s announcement was made, she addressed the anticipated criticisms.
Eavis pointed out that Guns’n’Roses had replaced a previously-confirmed woman headliner (thought to be Taylor Swift) whose touring plans nixed the booking; said that Lizzo has joint-headline billing that night; noted that 52% of the artists announced so far for the wider bill are male while 46% are non-white; and said two women will headline next year’s Glastonbury.
“We’re trying our best so the pipeline needs to be developed. This starts way back with the record companies, radio. I can shout as loud as I like but we need to get everyone on board,” said Eavis. “It’s top of our agenda, and it probably makes it a bit harder because we’ve decided to make that important to us.”
The ‘it’s a pipeline issue’ defence is sometimes given short shrift, particularly when made by promoters who haven’t made much of an effort to address that challenge further down their bills. Eavis, and Glastonbury, have been making those efforts in public for several years now, so perhaps her comments will lead to another round of thought and investment into those development paths.
There are certainly headline-ready artists out there. Four of the top five artists on Spotify at the time of writing are women: Swift, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Shakira. SZA (9th), Ariana Grande (13th), Dua Lipa (16th), Lady Gaga (22nd), Selena Gomez (23rd), Beyoncé (26th), and Doja Cat (30th) join them in the top 30.
Compare that to the Billboard Boxscore chart of top-grossing tours last year, with only four women in the top 40: Lady Gaga (12th), Billie Eilish (14th), Dua Lipa (18th) and Karol G (23rd). This chart is, naturally, more weighted towards heritage artists who can pack stadiums out without being in the uppermost reaches of the streaming charts.
Still, when looking at those names on the Spotify list, there is reason for optimism about the section of the development pipeline running from streaming stardom to stadium (and thus festival main-stage headlining) success. But as Eavis pointed out, there is still a lot of work to be done lower down the chain, across the industry.
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